GAO Releases Report on First Responder Network

“GAO found that while progress was made, FirstNet is confronted with many challenges”

April 28, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report today titled the “Public-Safety Broadband Network: FirstNet Should Strengthen Internal Controls and Evaluate Lessons Learned.” The report was drafted by the request of then-Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who requested that GAO evaluate FirstNet efforts to establish a nationwide public safety wireless broadband network for first responders.

On March 11, 2015, Chairman Thune also held a hearing on FirstNet entitled, “Three Years Later: Are We Any Closer to a Nationwide Public Safety Wireless Broadband Network.” Witnesses included FirstNet Chairwoman Sue Swenson and GAO Director Mark Goldstein, who testified to GAO’s preliminary report findings.

Chairman Thune offered the following statement on the GAO report’s findings:

“I commend GAO on its thorough examination of FirstNet’s progress in building a public safety network. GAO found that while progress has been made, FirstNet is confronted with many challenges. As I stated at our committee’s recent hearing, FirstNet should leverage the sizeable taxpayer investment in early builder projects by implementing a detailed data-analysis plan. FirstNet must also more fully assess the risks it faces as it builds a network that provides public safety officials with a network to serve all Americans.”
Background:  GAO’s report assesses (1) the extent to which FirstNet is carrying out its responsibilities and establishing internal controls for developing the public safety network, (2) how much the public safety network is estimated to cost to construct and operate and how FirstNet plans to become a self-funding entity, and (3) what lessons can be learned from local and regional public-safety network “early builder projects.”  GAO found that “FirstNet has not yet fully assessed risks it may face in accomplishing its objectives” and lacks a detailed data-analysis plan to track observations and lessons learned from “early builder projects.” GAO also found that FirstNet faces difficult decisions to become a self-funding entity and how to pay for a nationwide public safety network.